Soft as the Earth

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Sunday afternoon’s walk (after B’s rugby match in Preston and a delicious lunch whipped up  by TBH). It was only going to be a short one: a chance to stretch my legs and grab some lungfuls of fresh air. First I had an errand to run, returning a child’s coat which had been left at our house (which made a nice change from retrieving one of our own children’s lost coats from wherever they have left them), so I walked over to Oak Tree Barn to do that. This is on Bottom’s Lane, near Bottom’s Farm and is really part of Bottom’s Barn, a much better name for comedic purposes, and one which I shall steadfastly use henceforth.

Anyway, continuing to walk from there, I noticed that the sun was setting. There are lots of good places locally from which to watch the sunset: Warton Crag, Jack Scout, Arnside Knott and, closer to home, The Cove all fit the bill. But in a field with Hagg Wood to my west didn’t seem like a great choice of vantage point.

I dithered momentarily about where to go next, but in the end decided to cut across to the Row and hence into Eaves Wood. A gateway in Jubilee Wood gave me another slightly obscured view of what looked to possibly be a stunning sunset…

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I climbed slightly to pass through the Ring o’Beeches. The sky to the South had some lovely deep blues offset with a little pink.

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Also the moon…

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But through the trees I could still glimpse some patches of highly coloured sky and so decided to head up to Castlebarrow. I suspected that I would be too late, and would miss the light show.

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Humphrey Head.

Not quite. The tide was in. The Bay was picking up the pastel yellows and oranges from the sky.

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It was enormously peaceful. It was just a shame I didn’t have the wherewithal to make a brew to sit with and enjoy it.

Instead I decided to extend the walk and head down to The Cove and across The Lots.

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It was getting pretty dark by now and Tawny Owls were hooting on every side. In winter, a spring rises at the base of the low cliff here, but aside from the gentle murmur of the water and the calls of the owls, it was still and quiet.

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Magic.

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And the title? Well, this post could have been ‘An Unexpected Bonus’ but I’ve used that title before. In the previous post, I had intended to quote from Auden’s ‘In Praise of Limestone’. But forgot.

I quite like:

‘soft as the earth is mankind’

But it continues …

‘soft as the earth is mankind and both
Need to be altered.’

Which puts an entirely different slant on it. A bit sinister I thought.

So, I’m going to go for:

‘when I try to imagine a faultless love
Or the life to come, what I hear is the murmur
Of underground streams, what I see is a limestone landscape.’

 

 

Soft as the Earth

Residual Light

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A new month. Which started for me with one of those late night conversations in which the world is put thoroughly to rights. I’ve had plenty of those conversations in the past. This one was substantially different than any I’ve been involved in before, because I really felt that two of the three people involved really might change the world in significant ways. I mostly listened, excited and dizzied in equal measure. I realise that this is all rather cryptic and probably seems like hyperbole, but I shall keep my counsel until events have either confirmed or balked my suspicions.

Later that day, I was up unusually early to get into Lancaster for a pre-operative assessment. Nothing major, in fact a procedure I’ve had before, although unfortunately that means that I am well aware of the uncomfortable aftermath of the surgery. Ho-hum.

At lunchtime, I picked up new glasses. My first vari-focals: I am officially old. Suddenly the world has swum back into focus and has unexpected textures and details. Happily, I managed to resist the temptation to tell the lady who sold me my the specs that she was much more wrinkled than I had hitherto realised.

What kind of idiot wears 10 year old specs with a scratched lenses and an out-of-date prescription? This kind of idiot, that’s who! Well, not any more. (Not for another 10 years anyway).

What a good day then to get home early enough to get out whilst the sun was still shining. There are primroses flowering on the bank on Cove Road where they always appear early. Even earlier this year than is usual I think. The sun had sunk behind a bank of western cloud before I reached the Cove, but the residual light was still showing the Bay to pleasing effect.

Inevitably, things change, for good or evil. But the primroses and the sunsets are a reliable constant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Residual Light

Leaf Piercers

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Last week we had a number of cold, clear, sunny days and I enjoyed several strolls around Lancaster at lunch times and once in the late afternoon. On Friday night I managed to get home early enough to set-out for a walk before the last of the light had gone. It was soon dark and, as often happens on my night time wanders, I was listening to several owls from various directions. When one called particularly loudly, seemingly from almost directly overhead, I looked up and there it was, perched on a branch not far above my head. It was a very pale bird, not a Barn Owl, I don’t think, but a male Tawny Owl, judging by the ‘hoo-hoo’ call.

The forecast for Saturday was dreadful, so when the rain unexpectedly stopped and it began to brighten up I was especially pleased to have a good opportunity to walk down to Hawes Water to see whether the Snowdrops had appeared in the woods there.

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One regional, alternative name for Snowdrops is Snow Piercers, but this year they are more Leaf-mould Piercers. At first I was dismayed by the thought that there were less flowers than in previous years, but in fact they are abundant again, but quite well hidden by a low shrub which is also thriving in the same part of the woods, I think maybe Wild Privet, but am far from confident.

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I seem lately to be timing my arrival on the duck-boards by Hawes Water to match sunset.

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Leaf Piercers

Towyn Farm: Cloud Ten

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Lesser Black-backed Gull (I think).

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Our tenth annual summer camping holiday at Towyn Farm near Tudweiliog on the Llyn Peninsula. (Eleventh for some of our friends, because we missed one year for a family birthday party). We were unusually late this year, meaning that S had his birthday before we got there – he has had almost all of his birthday’s in Wales.

Because I’m chary about taking my camera to the beach, my photos are wholly inadequate and don’t capture any of the things which are important about the holiday – the frisby flinging, beach tennis and mass games of cricket, games of Kubb, swimming and body-surfing, messing about in boats etc etc. There are no pictures of our various rock-pool finds, in particular of the Norway Lobster which B and I caught with a borrowed net. Or of the many fish I saw at low tide whilst snorkelling around the reef just off shore.

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But most importantly, there are no photos of the gaggle of old friends whom we meet here every year and who make the holiday what it is.

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The weather was very kind to us this year, with lots of sunshine and the rain largely confined to the nights or early mornings.

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Our kids adore the sea and seemed to be quite happy to spend almost all day every day immersed in it, swimming, surfing, snorkelling, boating, floating on a ring, jumping about in the waves etc.

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I’m already looking forward to next year.

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Towyn Farm: Cloud Ten

Two Walks by the Bela

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More ‘Creative Use of Odd Moments’, or ‘Excerpts from the Diary of a Taxi Dad’. On a Monday evening A has two consecutive dance lessons in Milnthorpe; this creates a welcome opportunity for a bit of a daunder and since Dallam deer park and the river Bela’s confluence with the Kent are both conveniently close by it’s natural to head that way for a look-see.

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TBH generally does this particular taxi-run, because Monday night is also the appointed niche for my social life, such as it is, but with the evenings drawing in I snatched the opportunity to forgo the delights of the Lancaster City Quiz League and to get some fresh air and a little exercise instead.

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This last photo was taken near the end of the walk, when it was, frankly, almost dark. These two Fallow Deer bucks, part of a domesticated herd kept in Dallam Deer Park, stood out a ghostly white under the spreading shade of a riverside tree, seeming to concentrate and reflect the light of the recently risen moon. I was surprised, given the relative darkness, that the camera managed to capture an image.

A week later I took a more direct route to the level ground beside the Bela’s final few yards, having missed the sunset the week before by dallying elsewhere.

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I still missed the sunset, but the afterglow wasn’t too shabby.

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There was a chill in the air which had me regretting choosing to wear shorts.

Two Walks by the Bela

Hutton Roof Sunset

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So, obviously, I’m aeons behind. But here are some photos from back when the evenings were long and I could get out for a wander after work. You’ll never guess – I climbed Hutton Roof and watched the sunset.

I’d parked, as I often do, at Plain Quarry, but broke with the norm by taking a track I’d noticed before. On the map the track ended abruptly at a wall – I was hoping there would be a gate in the wall and I would be able to continue heading across the slopes to Lancelot Clark Storth Nature Reserve.

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The woods were of densely packed beech and, given how sunny it was, surprisingly dark – much gloomier than this photo suggests. The leaf litter was deep and crunchy and my footfalls made enough noise for three people – unnervingly so: I kept looking behind to see who was following me.

Sadly, there was no gate. so I turned and followed the wall uphill instead, which eventually brought me to some limestone pavement…

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And then fine views from the vicinity of the summit.

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Looking to the Forest of Bowland.

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Looking to Ingleborough.

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Middleton Fells.

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Howgills

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I’d quite a bit of time to wait for the sunset. I wandered about a bit, messed around with my camera and it’s settings, and finally found a comfortable spot to lie down and enjoy the show.

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Hutton Roof Sunset

The Lots and Jack Scout – A Birding Walk

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Black-headed gull.

It’s not that I went out specifically looking for birds. As usual I had my camera with me, but no binoculars*. It’s just that birds are relatively easily identified and so easily seen, at the moment particularly so, when they’re very busy and there are no leaves on the trees obscuring all of their activity.

*(Although I often think that I ought to start carrying a pair. And a magnifying glass and/or perhaps one of those insect specimen jars with a magnifying lid. And a kettle and stove, matches, water, teabags, milk. A snack perhaps. Maybe a tripod. A scope for more distant birds. A notebook and pen. Field guides. And presumably a mule with saddle bags laden with all of this paraphernalia.)

In the trees above the Cove there were blue tits and great tits. I think I was most pleased to see these…

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…starlings. Not everybody likes them I know, although I’m not really sure why not. I suppose they can be bullies on a bird table. Near where I photographed these birds, I once found a pair nesting in a hollow in a tree trunk and watched for a while as they flew back and forth in relay to feed their ravenous brood.

The woods have been busy with the chatter of birds of late. The fields are often busy too, but usually with gulls, jackdaws, oystercatchers – generally larger birds. I was a bit taken aback when, as I walked across the Lots and left the trees behind me, I could still hear the chirp of small birds.

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A small flock of pied wagtails, maybe about a dozen in total were busily picking over the field. This was probably the highlight of the walk – slowly making my way across the field, pausing now and then to have another go at photographing the constantly moving wagtails, who receded away from me just as fast as I advanced toward them.

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There was nobody about at Jack Scout, but some evidence of previous visitors on the limestone seat which overlooks the bay.

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I watched the sun setting and listened to the blackbirds and song-thrushes in the shrubs behind me adding musical accompaniment to the show.

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Out over the bay, I could hear the honking of geese. I looked in vain for a while, but then….

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Amazing how fluid the formation is….

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…these three shots taken in quick succession each showing a different pattern.

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Once the sun had dipped out of sight I was left with a wander home in the dying light.

I’ve finished reading Patrick Barkham’s ‘Badgerlands’ and I can recommend it. It’s more about the relationship between people and badgers than it is a straight study of badgers. If you read it, you will learn a great deal about badgers, and their role in the spread of bovine TB, but you’ll also meet scientists who study badgers, enthusiasts who feed badgers and watch badgers, conservationists who vaccinate badgers, farmers who support a cull of badgers and activists who aim to disrupt the cull, even a man who will eat badgers when they have been roadkilled. I think it’s fair to say that Barkham does his best to give an even-handed account.

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Haven’t had a robin picture for a while. This one was singing fiercely despite, or perhaps because of, the gathering gloom.

This is from the very last paragraph of the book…

Badger watching, dusk watching, was where beings of the day met beings of the dark and both types of creatures were transformed. Shadows lengthened, sounds sharpened and memories were awakened. It could be a golden time, a gloomy time or a drowsy time and yet it was as vital as listening to music through headphones with your eyes closed in the hot sun; it was a warm bath, a wet run, a cold swim; all those greedily taken sensory pleasures.

Good isn’t it?

I’m not always managing to find time for longer walks in the mountains at the moment, but I’m making an effort to get out in the evenings – not all of those walks will make it on to the blog, sometimes the weather hasn’t been kind for taking photos, a couple of the walks have been in near darkness in their entirety, but it’s enough to be getting out there and greedily enjoying some sensory pleasures!

The Lots and Jack Scout – A Birding Walk